Date: Sunday, October 29, 2017
It was a remarkable turn out on Wednesday for the funeral service, procession and burial of Craig Lehner. Many, who did not know Craig, became emotionally attached to him because of the circumstances of his death and the telling of his story. We will always remember his special bond with “Shield” his canine partner. In our Gospel today, when Jesus is asked to identify the greatest commandment, he says (citing Deuteronomy 6:5): “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” But Jesus then goes on to link the greatest and first commandment with a second like it (citing Leviticus 19:18): “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The whole law and prophets depend on these two commandments. When we recall Officer Craig Lehner, we will always associate him with his dog Shield. When we call to mind the greatest commandment to love God with our entire being, we will inevitably unite this commandment with the demand to love our neighbor.
“Neighbor” must not be understood in a universal sense of “loving everybody” but in a particular way of loving people within the community of believers. And this immediacy to loving neighbor includes widows and orphans, the poor and aliens. Our first reading from Exodus shows how demanding the law can be in regards to compassion. “You shall not molest or oppress an alien.” Hear “migrant worker” and “undocumented”. Remember you were once aliens yourselves in Egypt. “If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset.” The cloak is the only thing he may have to cover his body. Our compassion for others, especially the most vulnerable, is intimately connected to God’s compassion for us.
The linkage of the two commandments to love God and neighbor, is powerfully demonstrated when Jesus envisions the last judgment (Matthew 25:31-46) as the coming of the Son of Man. When the nations will be assembled before the great King, there will be a sorting out (like a shepherd separating sheep and goats). The great king will bid those on his right: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” Surprised, they ask: “When did we do this kindness to you?” The great king will say: “When you did it to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”
It is very difficult for us to say in prayer that we love God when we fail to perceive and love God in our neighbor.